I first heard of the Plague Village, Eyam in England, on a Secrets of the Dead episode on PBS. Scientists were studying the genes of plague survivor descendants in hopes of finding a mutated gene that not only made humans immune to the Plague but also AIDS. Their story peaked my interest. When I read about Year of Wonders, I knew I had to read it.
Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks is a fictionalized account of that village. She mixes fact, folklore and fiction into a fascinating read. The Plague arrives in the village in the disguise of a flea infested bolt of cloth. The first victim to succumb to the disease is the tailor and for some time it seems that he might be the only one. Then it spreads to the surrounding houses.
One Sunday, the rector Michael Mompellion makes a startling announcement. If the villagers pledge to remain isolated inside the village, the Earl from the next town will supply them with goods for as long as the plague rages. Reluctantly they agree, with the exception of the local lord who high-tails it out of there.
Anna, a miner's widow, losses her children to the Plague early on. Though her loss seems inconceivable it only gets worse as she watches her friends and neighbours lose their battle with the disease. With the help of the rector's wife, Elinor, Anna uses all the resources she has to help the ill and dying, in hopes of saving some. Slowly the villagers also lose their grip on reality and fall into madness, witchcraft and religious furvor. When the seige is over, Anna finds her life irrevocably changed.
I've been lucky to read some great books lately. Year of Wonders didn't disappoint. I read this for Dewey's Reading Challenge and she felt the same as myself about it. She just loved it. I especially liked what she says here: "I wanted to read it again as soon as I finished, because I missed my new pals." Although I think the ending was rather bizarre and implausible (as did some of Dewey's commenters) that didn't detract from the rest of the story. I flew through it in a couple of days; it was just too engrossing!
Higly, highly recommended!
Now as part of Jill @ Fizzy Thoughts' Mini-Challenge here is my Eyam list of facts:
*In 1665, there were 350 people living in Eyam; by the end of 1666, there were 83.
*The current population (2001) is 926.
*Elizabeth Hancock buried a husband and 6 children but never fell ill.
*George Viccars was a tailor and the first victim of the Plague in Eyam.
*The village of Eyam holds a remembrance service the last Sunday of August every year, known as Plague Sunday.
*The Plague is spread via infected fleas.